Those of you yearning for the experience of running a 1990s-vintage graphics workstation are about to have a good day: a developer named Eric Masson has resurrected the IRIX Interactive Desktop that shipped on Silicon Graphics Workstations and now offers it as a Linux desktop alternative.
Silicon Graphics (SGI) had a crack at the workstation business in the early 1990s, when it dominated the then-rather-limited world of computer graphics and decided it would try to parlay that experience into the CAD and desktop publishing markets. Apple's early Macintoshes led those market, but their 68xxx CPUs had obvious limits. SGI threw MIPS silicon at the problem, brought IRIX out of servers onto the desktop and cooked up a nice windowing system to match the Mac and hit the market.
SGI did okay for a while but proprietary workstations became an oddity once Windows came along and Microsoft encouraged makers of graphics-centric apps to bring their wares to Win32. SGI added a Wintel workstation line, but then had to compete with PCs-at-scale outfits like Compaq and Dell. The company kept making MIPS-powered workstation well into the 2000s, but eventually succumbed.
Masson has tried to bring back some of that heritage in the form of the Maxx Interactive Desktop, which aims to offer “an evolution of SGI’s IRIX Interactive Desktop.”
The new release is designed to run with 64-bit Fedora 25, but the effort's Facebook page features a few success stories on other Linuxes, and support for other distributions is on Masson's to-do list.
He isn't doing this just for the sake of nostalgia. He's created an SDK built on Eclipse, promises “CPU affinity, low memory foot-print, modern GUI and Enterprise class reliability” and is even offering a supported “Professional Edition”. A community edition is offered for dabblers. Sadly the Maxx Desktop's site was down at the time of writing, so we can't offer a download link or pricing. If that changes, we'll update this story. ®
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